Can you say all-star cast?! Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Thor) directs Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, and Willem Dafoe in a remake of Agatha Christies’ murder mystery on a train, Murder on the Orient Express. Impressive amount of talent. You have a couple of Oscar winners there as well a bunch of nominations. Sometimes, though, trying to manage that amount of talent is like trying to wrangle kittens. Everyone going in various directions. Though I found this film entertaining (based on what it is and what it is trying to be), at times it felt like people were pulling in different directions.
There is no doubting that Kenneth Branagh is a good director. He certainly, as a strong actor himself, knows how to give his actors the support and room they need to flesh out their characters. But on this film what I really appreciated from his bag of tricks was his visual acumen. He has really given the viewer plenty of beautiful shots, sets and other visuals. There sumptuous nature of the decor of things like the train cars is something to see.
If you are one who has not seen any of the previous films, television movies or read the novel, then the mystery here still has the ability to keep you guessing until the end. There are enough twists and turns and red herrings to muddle even the clearest of minds. Agatha Christie does provide that in the source material and Branagh translates that onto the screen well. He even manages to bring some freshness to an older story.
While on a luxury train traveling through the Swiss Alps, the passengers, which include world famous detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh – Much Ado About Nothing, Dunkirk), find themselves trapped due to an avalanche. To make matters worse, a murder occurs. Grumpy American Ratchett (Johnny Depp – Into the Woods, Public Enemies) is found stabbed multiple times within his locked compartment. Though he is supposed to be relaxing, Poirot is drawn into the murder and the solving of it.
Initially all clues point towards a mysterious stranger coming on board and committing the crime. Once Poirot begins to dig a little beneath the surface he begins to realize many of the passengers including Miss Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Peter Rabbit), Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz – from television’s American Crime Story), Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad – Frozen, 21), Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer – What Lies Beneath, Batman Returns), Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench – Victoria & Abdul, Notes on a Scandal), Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman – from television’s Broadchurch), and Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project, Finding Dory) all have ties to the deceased. Nothing is as it seems on this train and time is running out for Poirot to solve the crime.
- Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait
- Let’s Talk About Hercule Poirot
- Unusual Suspects (Part One, Two and Three)
- The Art of Murder
- All Aboard: Filming Murder on the Orient Express
- Music of Murder
- Deleted Scenes (with and without Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green)
- Alternate Opening
- Newsreel (Extended)
- Hotel Check-In
- Arasta Bazaar (Extended)
- Train Montage
- Poirot Bedtime Rituals (with two alternates)
- Pierre Michel Interview
- Director commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green
- Theatrical Trailers
- Digital Copy